SEAN MURDOCH insists that hanging up his gloves in exchange for the referee’s whistle “interests me more” after announcing his retirement.

The Pars stopper, who has not played because of injury since a 2-1 win over Brechin City in December 2017, has called time on his career to pursue his ambition of becoming the man in the middle.

Already a qualified category three development official, Murdoch – whose contract expires at the end of the month – has been plagued by setbacks since suffering an inflammation of the pubic bone.

Despite his best efforts, he was unable to make a playing return and is set to leave East End having made 114 competitive appearances over two spells.

After joining Dunfermline as a youth player in 2003, Murdoch made his debut as a substitute in the first leg of a UEFA Cup tie against BK Hacken in 2007, but left the following year for Hamilton Academical.

After spells with Accrington Stanley, Hibernian and American side Rochester Rhinos, Allan Johnston brought him back to Athletic in 2015 and he was a virtual ever-present as they won the League One title.

He also set a club record for the highest number of minutes – 612 – without conceding a goal but Murdoch says taking up refereeing was always on his mind.

“I’m still very young at 32, and I could potentially play for another five years, but I’m not really interested. This interests me more,” he explained to Press Sport.

“I’m at the stage now where I’m happy with where I am at the moment. I’d built my way up to what is called category three development, which is a good category, and the FA were looking to push me on further.

“But then I would have to quit football, and I had another year’s extension with Hibs at the time. I was pretty young at 28, so I thought, ‘No, keep going at it’. I thought I was a good goalie, and that you’ve worked hard all your life, and I wanted to keep going.

“I’ve worked really hard on the refereeing side to get to where I was, and I’m not coming into the unknown. I know exactly what the protocol is to get to the top, and I’m going to give it a good crack.”

Murdoch, who is set to officiate academy and women’s league matches from later this month, continued: “At 21, I saw an article about it and a beginner’s exam that was held in Motherwell.

“I went to it and passed pretty comfortably, then did a game, and just thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I’ve done all the Sunday League games, and some junior games and stuff in the past, so I know exactly what I’m getting myself into.

“As Michael Stewart said (on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound) the other night, I’m going to be like a trailblazer.

“In my opinion, it’s never been done before.”

As Dunfermline’s season ends in Inverness this weekend – a game he says he won’t be involved in – Murdoch has been denied the chance to say farewell to the “exceptional” Pars fans.

Since announcing his decision, he has been inundated with well wishes, and added: “First and foremost, the comments are amazing.

“Some people are regarding me as the best goalkeeper at East End – I don’t know if they’re just saying that to be nice – but it’s lovely to read.

“I’d just like to say thank you for everything. The fans have been exceptional to us, even through the times where we weren’t doing so well.

“I hope I’ve repaid them with performances, and hopefully they know I did the best I could for them.”

Head coach Stevie Crawford added: “When Sean came to that decision, I fully backed him because I could see when I was talking to him, he knew what he wanted to do. I’d just like to wish him all the best.”